Being a Dad…the best role I've ever had.

Archive for April, 2013

I…was wrong

Sometimes, being a parent also means being wrong. We all like to think that we make good, sound judgments, especially where our children are concerned. Well, being a parent also means that you are human and you do, like it or not, make mistakes.

I am far from a perfect father. I have made many mistakes and been wrong many times. Likely, this is a pattern that repeat itself.  Not on purpose, but, no doubt, it will. When I am wrong, I can admit it.  Sometimes, though, it is hard to do so, especially when one thinks one is doing the right thing.

Recently, my fifteen year son missed quite a bit of time from high school due to illness. My son has an autoimmune issue that causes him to get sick frequently and it generally takes him longer to recover.  In the past, he has been very diligent about making up his work and staying on top of his grades.

Chase is a wonderful son. Pretty responsible and is one who knows right from wrong. I credit his late mother and grandfather with much of his character. I like to think I had a hand in there as well. He doesn’t drink, do drugs, run around with out letting us know where he is and, most important, has empathy, something many young adults sorely lack.

Given his responsible nature, we decided not to hound him (as we have in the past) about making up his work and doing what he can to stay current at school.  Unfortunately, he didn’t do as well as we had assumed he would and he fell behind. As a result, his grades faltered.

Naturally, I felt partly responsible for this…I should have been monitoring him more than I did. That said, he should have kept up. The work he was missing was not that much, but I thought that his teachers would not allow or could not allow him to make it up. Well, they did and he finished within a weeks time. As he was grounded until he made it up, he had a lot of incentive.  At the end of the week, he had made it up.  Since then, my wife and I have been checking the web site where the teachers post his grades, assignments, etc.

Once again, he got sick and missed a few days.  As a result, his grades in three classes plummeted and, suddenly, there were assignments – some from the previous nine weeks – showed up as missing. I confronted him about them and he told me that he had already done much of it and that the teachers had not yet entered his grades. I, however, did not believe him and thought he was just telling me what he thought I would want to hear.

So, I fired off some emails to the teachers involved.  I got responses. Now, before I go on, let me say that I do, in fact, trust my son. When he was grounded, I did not take physical possession of his computer or iPhone. I knew that he would do I told him.  I knew that he respects us enough to follow our rules and instructions.  This knowledge, however, seemed to elude me for a moment.

Sure enough, the teachers had accepted and graded most of the work (some of it requires him to be at the school, which he is doing) but had not entered it into the school’s system.

Imagine how small I felt. I had got so worked up over the poor grades that I forgot who my son was and assumed the worst. Not only had I, indirectly, let my son know that I had not trusted him, I believed a freaking web site over my kid’s word.  I felt absolutely horrible. I did apologize to him, but it seems inadequate. How do I convey to my son that I do trust him, yet take the results on a screen to heart more than his words? Simple. Just don’t believe the damned screen.

So, I was wrong. So wrong here. I should trust that my son is still on top of things and just use the web site for guidance and not gospel. As for grades, maybe we should not put as high of importance on them that we forget the ones who are attaining those grades.

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The ups and downs of being Dad

Spring is when the flowers bloom, the weather gets warmer and the amusement parks around the country fire up the rollercoasters.  For me, it is a time for a lot of fun with my family and, now, a lot of wonderful memories.

Perhaps, two of the best memories I have are about 10 years apart.  The first one, was with my now 15 year old son, Chase.  I had taken him to Kings Dominion, a local amusement park just north of Richmond, Virginia.

Now, this theme park is also the first one I remember going to and the rollercoaster I first remember riding, the Scooby Doo Ghostercoaster.  This rollercoaster, a mini version of a famous Coney Island rollercoaster, is about thirty feet tall and wooden. It was and still is a fantastic little wooden coaster and one that, I’m sure, is the first for many people over the nearly forty years it has been around.

For Chase’s first ride on this coaster, he was very nervous.  With Chase, when he got nervous, he tended to talk. A LOT. He also held my hand with a grip that was surprising for such a little fart.

So, we are standing in line, waiting for our time. I look at him and tell him I wasn’t sure that we should ride.

“Why, daddy?”

“Well, I might loose my cookies.”

Chase stood there, quiet for a moment and then, very thoughtfully, he says…

“I’ll hold your cookies, so you won’t woose them.”

It was all I could do to not burst into laughter.  I paused for a moment and then carefully explained that it was just a saying. Explaining what ‘loosing ones cookies’ really meant was terribly difficult, especially when you are fighting back laughter. I’m sure the parents behind use were loving it.

The second wonderful memory took place just last year. We took my stepson, Preston, to the same park.  Now, he’s a child with certain sensory difficulties and is easily overstimulated. The first time we took him, a year earlier, was not too bad and for the rest of that year, he did fine.  Well, last year (2012) he was tall enough to ride the Scooby Doo rollercoaster.  So, I took the little squirt into the queue for the rollercoaster. He must have changed his mind a dozen times, but I convinced him he would have fun.  He loved the Taxi Jam coaster so I tried to explain that this was similar, only a bit taller. Fifteen times taller, but he didn’t know that.

So, we get in the train and I strap him in.  As we are going up the lift hill, I said ‘’Oh no! I’m scared, I have to get off”, He put his hand on my arm and proceeded to tell ME that it was going to be OK!

Sure enough, it was. When the ride was over, he had the biggest, happiest smile on his face.

“Let’s do that again!”

So, we did.  He absolutely loved that ride.  He was so excited, just like another little boy I know.  It was fantastic.  It was another moment I will always treasure.

I’m telling you, being a Dad is just fantastic.

She was just pregnant and not crazy

Last June, I started to think that, perhaps, my marriage might have a serious issue. See, my wife was having a difficult time and, seemingly, I was a part of that problem. It was like I could do nothing right. She was constantly criticizing herself and me as well. My 15 year old also could do nothing right.  April and myself seemed to be growing apart.

For the life of me, I could not figure out what was going on with her and what the hell I had done wrong.  Things were at the point where I thought the last hope we may have had was a weekend alone, to re-connect with each other. Or, at the very least, find out what was going on.  She liked the idea and we decided to take a week end jaunt to the Norfolk, Virginia area. There is lots to do down there and it was not a long drive.

So, we made plans. Booked a room at a Hilton and made our plans.  For once, everything seemed fine.  We had a long talk the night we booked that room and decided that no, our marriage was not in jeopardy but, perhaps, we did have some issues.

Well, several days go by and, once again, she’s out of sorts. Chase and I were the devil.

During this period, she was still having some residual issues from her gall bladder surgery the previous fall.  So, her doctor had scheduled an endoscopy. 

In the months prior to this, we had been actively trying to get pregnant. We had no luck.  Test after test (and, boy, did CVS love us for that) proved negative. Was it me? Was it her? Turns out, it wasn’t.

So, we sort of just stopped trying. That’s when things went downhill. Or, so it seemed.

Well, the night before the endoscopy, April decides to take one last test.  She grabbed the test and headed for the bathroom. I’m in the bedroom, probably perusing Facebook or some techie-geeky site. 

Suddenly, I hear…’Honey, I’m pregnant! I’m not crazy!’

Naturally, I go running into the bathroom and there she was, standing over the toilet, hands shaking, tears coming from her eyes.  “I’m not crazy! I’m not!” I hugged her for what seemed like forever.  It was only a minute, but it seemed like longer. Not that that was a bad thing. Hugging my half naked wife is always a good thing. Of course, it’s better when she is completely naked.

So, we stood there, looking at the test. Yep, there were two lines. No mistaking it. 

“I need to try another test!”

“but, sweetie, this one was positive and we have no more.”

“Go get another one!”

So, I sped off to CVS to buy not one, but two more tests…just to be sure, mind you.

I get back and she takes another. Sure enough, two lines.  She was not crazy. Not that I thought that, mind you.

Of course, they would not do the endoscopy because she might be pregnant. Her pregnancy was not ‘official’ yet, but would be shortly.

Those three words-“I’m not crazy” did more for us than anything.  It was the hormones being out of whack that made things the way they had become. Seemingly, overnight, everything was great.  Well, about as great as it can get with a hormonal pregnant woman.

The following nine months were pretty good for us. I think we grew closer and, as the idea of bringing another little one into the world sank in, I knew it was going to be quite a ride from then on out.  I absolutely loved taking care of her, trying to pamper her as much as I could. Oh, as with any man, I made mistakes, said things I should not have, but, in the end, it was all good.  Things turned around, we were closer than ever, regained our intimacy and had a good time.

And that weekend trip, we still went. And even though Norfolk turned out to be such a bust, we still enjoyed being with each other. Speculating about our upcoming addition to the family, talking about Chase and Preston and wondering how they would respond to our new addition. 

In the end, we decided Chase would be fine with the baby, as he is a mature teen and able to cope with change. Preston, well, he was an unknown.

Admittedly, I had the occasional thought along the lines of “what the hell are you thinking? Are you f’ing crazy? You turned in the diapers years ago, mister!” But, they were just fleeting.  Really, they were.

Really.

Being the step Dad

My stepson, Preston, had a birthday recently. He turned five and we celebrated with presents, cake and ice cream.  His Dad, my wife’s ex-husband, was coming over along with my father in law. Now, there was a time when the idea of my wife’s ex coming over here, and staying for awhile, would have bothered me. Sometimes, I suppose, it still does, but, for the most part, I’m over that.

Marrying someone who has children from a previous marriage carries along a certain amount of baggage and a ton of patience. The interests of that child ALWAYS has to be first, no matter what you and the ex think of each other.  I know I am not this man’s best friend. I don’t even know if he considers me a friend or not. I think if circumstances were different, we could be very good friends and, maybe someday, we will be.  For now, I think it is tolerance of each other. I am not sure. Tenuous, yes. Hatred, no…not on my part anyway and I don’t think he hates me either. I don’t hate the guy. Not at all. I don’t agree with everything, but I respect what he does (he’s a counselor and has seen and dealt with things I probably would be unable to cope with) and respect the fact that he is a Dad, Preston’s Dad. I think we’ve gotten past the early distrust and, now, we even help each other.  He took it upon himself to prop up our fence. Neither myself nor my wife asked him to do that. I’m sure he had Preston in mind, but, nonetheless, he did help us (a tree had fallen on the fence during one of our freaky snow storms…several inches fell, but was all gone in a day. Typical, for this part of Virginia.)

Sometimes, being the stepfather is hard. Seeing the disappointment on Preston’s face when his Dad leaves and I’m still here. Being only five now, he doesn’t understand. Someday, he will. 

Preston and I get along great and we have fun, but I’m not his Dad and he knows that. I try to comfort him, in times like that, but his mother usually is the one who gets him calm and relaxed. I’m still learning how to do that.

Discipline is another tricky and slippery slope. When both Mom and Dad are around, I will usually defer to one of them when it comes to correcting Preston. Of course, sometimes I have to interject and that’s OK.  When it is just myself and my wife, I do correct him.  Even so, we have different ideas as to how to do that. Sometimes my way works, sometimes its hers. We learn together.

Our situation is unique and I am glad that Preston’s father is the way he is…making Preston the focus and working with us and not against us.  I’ve seen how nasty things like this can get and it is the children that lose in the end.

Preston is fortunate in that he has three parents who do love him. I think of him as my own, but I would never stand in between him and his Dad.  A father-son relationship is very special, I would be the last person on the planet to interfere with that.

Being Dad

xander_spock_paintingI have been a father for fifteen years now.  I have two sons and one stepson.  They are 15, 5, and six weeks. Yep, six weeks. At the young age of 47, I have started over this whole Dad thing.

I still remember when my late wife informed me that she was pregnant. I was still mostly asleep.

“Honey, I’m pregnant.”

“Honey!”

“That’s nice dear!”

“Did you hear me? I’m pregnant!”

That was nearly sixteen years ago. Last summer, my wife says “Honey, I’m pregnant! I’m not crazy!”

My reaction, this time, was a bit more lively. Tears ensued and, well, it was one of the happiest moments of my life.  Just like that moment, sixteen years ago when it finally struck me that I was going to be a Dad.

Until I met and married my first wife, being a father was the last thing on my mind. I was a horny geek. I only cared about geek stuff and sex.  Funny thing, once the sex entered the picture, I didn’t even care about the geek stuff.

I was a late bloomer when it came to dating.  Awkward and inexperienced. I had no idea as to what to do or how to act.  Again, being a father was something I had not given a second thought. I was a typical guy, I suppose. Dating and all that comes with it was fun and exhausting. I had a couple of ‘long’ relationships, even thought one was going to be ‘it’. It wasn’t, but that is OK.  It would not be long before I found ‘it’. She was cute, funny and someone I took to right away.

And, once I realized that this cute, funny woman was someone I wanted to settle down with, then I began to think. Maybe this family thing was something I wanted. Yeah, maybe so. We talked about it, a lot. We decided we wanted to be in our own house before raising a child. Almost six years went by…

Fast forward to 1997 when my first son was born.

Suddenly, I had this wonderful little person to help care for.  It was rough at times, for Chase was colicky and, once we got that under control, he started getting sick. A lot. As time went on, we found out that he had an autoimmune problem. He could not produce enough white blood cells to fight off anything. As he got older, it got worse and we ended up having to give him infusions once a month. It worked, and his immune system got much better.

Today, he still gets sick, but not as often and not as long as he used to.

In 2010, Chase’s mother passed away. She died from pneumonia, but had been sick for quite some time.  It was quite a shock to both of us, but Chase was my bedrock and we got through it.

Through Facebook, a relationship with someone blossomed and, last year, I married her.  She is a beautiful, vibrant and all around awesome lady. And, best of all, she puts up with me.

Preston, my wife’s son from a previous marriage, is a smart and full of energy five year old.  Like Chase, Preston is a scary smart kid.  Preston needs little in the way of instruction when it comes to electronic devices. He can grasp certain ideas (but, like any child, there are some that go over his head, like listening to parents) and has an excellent grasp of the English language.  He is lucky in that he has not one, not two but three parents who care deeply for him and spend the time with him.

Xander, our six week old, is just so damned sweet. So sweet, you just want to eat him up, figuratively, of course.  I cannot wait to experience the firsts again, to watch him figure out what those things are that he keeps flailing. To watch him experience solid foods. Take him to his first movie. Watch him walk.  Watch him develop. And, I cannot wait to ride his first rollercoaster.  I got to do that with Chase and Preston. It was very special. I still remember riding one, for the first time, with my Dad. It was the Scooby Doo at Kings Dominion near Richmond.  I remember the Jet Star at the State Fair.  I don’t know why, but the rollercoaster experience seems very special to me and I cannot wait to do so with Xander.

Being a Dad has its downs as well. Having to correct them is never fun. Especially when you know they are fully capable but were just careless. Teaching them that there will be consequences in life for ones actions is, perhaps, the most difficult part of parenting.

Perhaps being able to tell when they need guidance and help is also a difficult aspect.  I know I’ve had issues with it. Both our five and fifteen year old have needed certain help and I was slow to recognize that. But, we have gotten over that. At least, I hope we have. As with anything in life, one never can be certain but you hope you do the best for them.

I hope my sons know I am there for them. It may not always seem like it, but I am. Just as my wonderful wife is, so am I. 

Trying to maintain a balance with the kids, my wife and my own needs is very tricky. Sometimes I am selfish, I know.  I try my best not to be, but I know I don’t always succeed. My bride sometimes lets me know, but, for the most part, she puts up with me and does not complain. She is awesome.

With all it entails, I cherish the role of Dad. I would not trade it for anything in the world.

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